California Nurses Lose Fight Over Insulin Shots

     (CN) – School employees can now give diabetic students insulin shots after California’s highest court refused Monday to find that only licensed nurses can administer such treatments.
     “Finding no merit in the arguments to the contrary, we conclude California law does permit trained, unlicensed school personnel to administer prescription medications, including insulin, in accordance with written statements of individual students’ treating physicians, with parental consent and that persons who act under this authority do not violate the NPA,” Justice Kathryn Wedegar wrote for the seven-person court, abbreviating Nursing Practice Act.
     The American Nurses Association sued to block a 2007 agreement between the California Board of Education, the American Diabetes Association and parents of diabetic students in California public schools, that would let trained employees and volunteers administer insulin when nurses are unavailable.
     While a Sacramento County judge sided with the nurses, and an appellate panel later affirmed, the California Supreme Court reversed Monday.
     Education Code section 49423 permits “designated school personnel” to assist students with taking prescribed medications, according to the 30-page opinion.
     “Thus, section 49423 and its implementing regulations plainly establish, as the Legislature, the board and the department intended, that unlicensed school personnel may administer prescription medications,” Wedegar wrote. “The nurses do not contend the board’s regulations are invalid, but they do offer a variety of arguments for interpreting them other than according to their plain meaning. None is persuasive.”
     Ultimately, “the nurses have misinterpreted the regulations,” the decision states.
     Noting that unlicensed school personnel “are permitted to open a bottle of cough syrup and pour the prescribed dose but cannot pour it down the student’s throat,” the nurses said such employees that “may monitor a diabetic student’s glucose levels and determine the correct dosage of insulin but may not administer the drug by giving the injection or pushing the button on an insulin pump,” according to the ruling.
     But the court found that the language of the board’s regulations does not mean “that only licensed health care professionals may administer prescription medications in public schools.”
     “It means, rather, only that the board’s regulations do not authorize unlicensed school personnel to administer such medications in violation of other applicable laws or regulations,” Wedegar added (emphasis in original).

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